Why Aren't Women More Prominent on the Web?

April 1, 2005

Speaking of women…I read an interesting quote in Molly Holzschlag's Women Bloggers Just Ain't Good Enough:

Here's a different explanation for why the blogosphere is dominated by white males: because they're the ones producing the best product. Sorry, ladies, but there aren't as many of us engaged in aggressive, competitive opinionizing and nonstop consumption of politics as our male tormentors. --Heather MacDonald

Molly responds to MacDonald, saying:

There are serious issues underlying the lack of women and minorities in technology, on blogs, in public leadership roles. The Web, as wonderful as it is, and as much a role as it can play in mitigating diversity issues, hasn't made those issues magically disappear.

The percentage of women who are well-known in the blogpsphere, as well as in web design and development, is noticeably small. When I went looking for advice and information, I came up with lots of great sites—all written by men. It was one of the factors I mulled over before finally deciding the heck-with-it and tacking up my brass plate, anyway. Something definitely is up. Plenty of women blog, and plenty of them design. Yes, maybe not as many as white males, but certainly enough that we should be seeing them in top leadership positions. MacDonald thinks women aren't producing the best material and aren't aggressive enough. Holzschlag intimates that there are other "diversity issues" at play. Both women make some interesting points—I'm just adding my two cents. MacDonald is right to point out that the top bloggers are both aggressive and competitive—and that these are mostly men. I can think of several exceptions, but that's not the point. Most women have not flagrantly promoted themselves, and unfortunately that's what it takes. Nor have many of them made a spectacle of themselves—another characteristic that makes for notority and fame. So, why not? Maybe it's because most of us are just too damn busy and too blasted tired. Women still do a disporportionate amount of housework and childcare—even, one assumes, female bloggers. I love my husband, one of the least sexist men I know, yet I swear he's never cleaned a bathroom in the fifteen years I've known him. Who has the time for aggressive promotion when you're lucky to finish a blog entry between soccer practice and baths? Or maybe it's because we do spend more time with the children. The flareups and sudden spikes of bickering I read on some of the most well-known male bloggers' sites do, I'm sure, generate a lot of traffic. Hey, who doesn't love a bit of drama? Unfortunately, it reminds me a little too much of my children's squabbles, only the language is worse. Sometimes I just want to post the comment: "I know you're all cranky, but it's just because you need a nap. Go lie down. Please remember to pee first." But does this mean women aren't "the ones producing the best product"? I hardly think so. That we're not as aggressive promoters—well, perhaps. That we don't throw public temper tantrums, calculated to increase readership or not—possibly. But that our content isn't as good…well, that one I just can't swallow. Maybe my definition of "best product" is not exactly an "aggressive, competitive opinionizing and nonstop consumption of politics." Holzschlag hints that the scarcity of popular women bloggers is due to "serious…diversity issues." I'm not precisely sure what she's referring to because she doesn't spell it out. She does make the point that most of us overwhelmingly link to white male blogs, which is true, and she sees this as the problem, which is also true. Unfortunately, she doesn't really going into why this is so. Holzschlag admits that her own links are mostly to sites of white males. So are mine. Okay, so we've gone the easy route and bookmarked the most popular and well-known sites—i.e., those loud, busy, argumentative types mentioned above. Does that qualify as a diversity issue, or is it just us being lazy and bowing to public opinion? Perhaps laziness and wanting to impress is the definition of a diversity problem. Everyone knows about the snowball effect involved in getting a site listed—the more people who list a site, the more people who list the site. If I had a bit more time, I know I could sniff out half a dozen really excellent design blogs by women, and the cycle would start for their sites. Is that the answer? Should we purposefully search out and link to other women's sites? I don't want to get into a discussion about reverse discrimination because it's 3 a.m. and I'm on kid duty tomorrow. I can only say that, after all this thought, I intend to. The only way for blogs by females to become popular is for other people to link to them. That involves nothing more than a little time and effort. Yes, I'll intently look for women bloggers—thanks to Holzschlag and MacDonald. Of course, I'll hold them to the same standard as every blog I frequent—the writing must be good, the topics interesting and the writer engaging. Since that includes an awful lot of blogs by women, I don't foresee much trouble there… I just may be removing a existing link or two though. ;)